Calling in sick – it’s always a sticky situation. Aside from documents verifying a visit to a doctor’s office, it’s usually hard, if not impossible, to prove if a worker has a legitimate medical reason for an unscheduled work absence.
Some employees really are under the weather when they place that dreaded call, but let’s be honest, some workers stayed up all night to watch an entire season of Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, or some other binge-worthy TV show. Other workers may be hung-over from a night of late partying. For example, each year, an estimated 1.5 million employees call in sick the Monday after the Super Bowl. Granted, some of them may be “sick” because their team lost, or they may have indigestion from eating too many wings, but it is unlikely that a million and a half workers would coincidentally become too sick to report to work mere hours after the most-watched and most-celebrated television event of the year.
A 2014 survey commissioned by CareerBuilder and conducted by Harris Poll reveals that 28 percent of employees call in sick when they’re actually feeling fine. Why? There are five primary reasons:
- 30 percent just don’t feel like going to work
- 29 percent want to relax
- 21 percent attend a doctor’s appointment
- 19 percent want to sleep
- 11 percent cite bad weather
Ironically, half of the employees polled stated that they have paid time that they can use in any way that they choose, and yet, 23 percent of this group felt that they needed to provide an excuse.
The Harris Poll also surveyed hiring managers and human resource personnel and found that 31 percent of them check to see if the worker is telling the truth when they call in sick. Out of this group:
- 66 percent ask to see the doctor’s note when the employee returns to work
- 49 percent call the absent employee at home
- 15 percent drive by the employee’s house
Other interesting tidbits:
- 53 percent of workers go to work when they’re sick because they say the work has to get done
- 38 percent of workers go to work when they’re sick because they can’t afford to miss getting paid for that day
- 24 percent of workers have been caught because of their contradictory social media posts that day (“Having fun fishing today!”)
- 18 percent of employers have fired an employee for using a false excuse
Keep reading to discover what these hiring managers and human resource professionals consider the 10 most ridiculous reasons that employees give when calling in sick:
10 I accidentally got on a plane
Not really sure how that happens, especially considering how deliberate and how security-intensive flying has become. Let’s say the employee’s original intent was to take someone else to the airport . . . and they accidentally purchase a ticket, and accidentally stand in the security line and accidentally remove their shoes and all of the change from their pockets. Then they accidentally show the purchased ticket to the TSA officer, and accidentally walk – or accidentally take the shuttle – to the departure gate. Then they accidentally show the ticket at the departure gate, accidentally board the plane, and then accidentally find the correct seat to sit in. That’s a lot of accidents.
9 I caught my uniform on fire by putting it in the microwave to dry
Let’s keep an open mind. Everyone doesn’t own a clothes dryer, and perhaps the drip-dry method wasn’t working. The important thing is to just move on and make sure this doesn’t happen again. By the way, in case you were wondering, you shouldn’t microwave blankets in the microwave either. Or Chinese food containers with the metal hooks. Or any type of metal utensil or container. Forget about nuking plastic bags, newspapers, or aluminum foil. Oh, and don’t operate the microwave if there’s nothing in it.
8 I got stuck in the blood pressure machine at the grocery store and couldn’t get out
Hey, those machines aren’t as innocent as they look. That cuff has held more than one person hostage. It’s possible that the fire department had to be called to free the employee from the cuff’s death grip . . . although I’m not sure why that would take eight hours . . . unless it was some type of high-tech blood pressure machine and the manufacturer had to send the machine’s original designer there. But he was camping in the Adirondack and didn’t have his phone, so they had to send a private helicopter to get him and fly him across the country to the grocery store. Yep. That totally could have happened.
7 I had a gallstone that I wanted to heal holistically
Although the Affordable Care Act has provided insurance for millions of people, some employees prefer to avoid those pesky co-pays by conducting their own medical treatments. There are legitimate alternatives to surgery, shock wave therapy, or injecting solvents as a way to treat gallstones. However, if the employee has found a way to heal herself holistically in one day, perhaps she should consider another career choice that better utilizes her amazing medical skills.
6 I had a “lucky night” and didn’t know where I was
The trouble with lucky nights is that they often lead to a clueless morning after: “Where am I?” What happened?” “How did I get here?” “Who are you?” The trouble with using the “lucky night” excuse is the probability that the employer may label the worker as an idiot. For example, when the employee travels and wakes up in a hotel, is he unable to function because he doesn’t know where he is? If he paints his bedroom a different color, is he going to be disoriented when he wakes up? And is this the type of person we want working at our company?
5 I woke up in a good mood and didn’t want to ruin it
Wow. Wow. Millions of workers probably wake up every morning with the exact same thought, but this is one of those voices in your head that needs to stay in your head. It’s like parents showing you their ugly baby or your sister bringing her slacker boyfriend to your house for dinner. You can’t just come out and say, “That baby is ugly,” or “Your boyfriend is a slacker.” Also, unless you just won the lottery, or you’ve secured another job, your “good mood,” could quickly be ruined by two words: “You’re fired!”
4 I was at the casino all weekend and still had money left to play with on Monday morning
Hey, everyone knows that if you’re on a roll, you need to keep playing while Lady Luck is on your side. And anyone with money left on Monday is obviously on a roll. On the other hand, a worker using this lame excuse is playing Russian Roulette with her job and may soon find out that unemployment checks can’t be cashed out for chips.
3 I was sitting in the bathroom and my feet and legs fell asleep. When I stood up, I fell and broke my ankle
Think it through, people, think it through. If – and only if - the employee shows up for work the following day wearing a cast, at least the second half of the excuse is believable. If he is walking normally, he deserves to be fired on the spot for using such a weak excuse. But even if his ankle is broken, most people are not going to buy the it-happened-when-I-was-sitting-on-the-loo explanation. However, this excuse will provide hours of entertainment for co-workers and bosses placing bets on whether he fell down the steps in a drunken stupor or was on the receiving end of a bad fight (maybe with his bookie if he’s ever used excuse #4).
2 I had plastic surgery for enhancement purposes and needed some “tweaking” to get it just right
Don’t laugh. This may actually be an acceptable excuse. “Enhancement” implies that there was a development or augmentation that should be clearly visible to the eye. Also, according to the Daily Mail, twenty percent of people who have plastic surgery are unhappy with the results, so it’s quite possible that this employee did return for some tweaking. However, this may also be another excuse that was not thought through, because the recovery downtime for tweaking an enhancement is more than a day.
1 I just put a casserole in the oven
What happened to the good old days when employees just faked a cough if they wanted to call in sick? If the company is ever audited, how on earth could the human resource department justify how it approved a “sick day” for an employee who just put a casserole in the oven? Is it possible that this is the same employee who “accidentally” got on an airplane? Casseroles usually involve deliberately selecting and preparing some sort of meat and a variety of vegetables, spices and other ingredients. Unless the employee wakes up three hours earlier, how does a casserole fit into a morning pre-work routine? At least she didn’t say she dropped the casserole on her foot and broke it – although that may end up on next year’s list.